Edinburgh trams inquiry: '˜Secrecy' hampered project progress

FORMER council leader Jenny Dawe today told the Edinburgh tram inquiry of her frustration at being denied information on the troubled project by the authority's own arms-length company TIE.

Tuesday, 5th September 2017, 2:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:49 am
Tramworks on Princes Street in 2009. Picture: Dan Phillips

She said there had been “a huge amount of secrecy” particularly surrounding the bitter dispute between TIE and main contractor Bilfinger over the progress of the project.

Ms Dawe, who was council leader 2007-12, was the first witness to give evidence on the opening day of the inquiry, chaired by former Lord Advocate Lord Hardie, into why the trams were delivered five years late at a hugely increased cost and on a truncated route.

Asked about how confidentiality had affected the project, she said: “I found it most frustrating when it was concerning the dispute resolution process.

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Tramworks on Princes Street in 2009. Picture: Dan Phillips

“The information we were given from Tie was that the dispute resolution was going in favour of Tie - they described it as win or lose and they were winning and the other side were losing - but it soon became obvious that was not what the situation was. We wanted to know more information.

“Also about the costs and the time - very often we were told ‘Oh no, we can’t tell you that’ - particularly when matters had reached what might be called a stand-off with the consortium. The implication was ‘You cannot be trusted not to tell the consortium what we Tie are thinking, so we are not going to give you that information’.”

She said the council was expected to “stand by” Tie and had done so.

But she said: “We did not have all the detailed figures because we were told the contract did not allow either party to discuss any matters of dispute resolution with anybody outside the two contract holders.”

Tramworks on Princes Street in 2009. Picture: Dan Phillips

She said she accepted contracts had to be respected. But she added: “Everything around the disputes became shrouded in secrecy.”

Nevertheless she said the council did have enough information to make decisions on the project, despite the secrecy

“I don’t think it impeded decision making but in looking at documents for this inquiry I found there were internal memos going around which do suggest that councillors were perhaps being kept in the dark.

“At the time, apart from the shroud of secrecy around certain aspects, particularly the details of the dispute and the precise amount of money that might be needed, we felt we had enough information. We were unaware there were certain aspects that certain officers were aware of.”